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Reg readers in the dark over extreme porn

Local police clueless too

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A Register reader has been left baffled by the reaction of her local police force when they were asked what exactly is likely to constitute an actionable image when the extreme porn laws come into force in January.

Although the Ministry of Justice has issued its own guidelines the message has yet to filter down to local forces. The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act comes into force in late January.

A Reg reader, who asked to remain anonymous, sent an email to Sussex Police seeking guidance.

She wrote:

The law concerns images and, in hopes of gaining some guidance, I would be grateful if you could examine a picture and give me your thoughts as to whether you would officially consider it to be an actionable image. I believe it is a borderline image which rests the suffocation element of the guidance.

The image concerned in this case, is one recently created by a photographer in the US and posted on his blog, so the actual image is not permanently kept in this country. I would be grateful for your guidance...

http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/_jm16327.jpg"

The initial response was that she should refer the matter to the Internet Watch Foundation.

When she wrote back clarifying her question Sussex Police contact centre referred her to the Ministry of Justice.

She replied:

The Police Forces have received guidance on this law and it is now in the Police juristiction to provide the advice to people which is necessary in order to people to be able to judge whether images are within the boundary of the guidance in the window of time that the MoJ have provided before the law becomes actionable at the end of January.

Please provide the advice I have requested when possible. If you have to refer to the MoJ for further advice, please do so.

It will look extremely bad if the MoJ's promises are not kept and the advice which it has sought to enable the public to comply with this law, is not available.

Sussex Police said they were unable to answer her question last week but had passed it onto a local Police Sergeant.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed that the new law will only catch material which would already be illegal under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 but would introduce a criminal offence punishable by up to three years in prison.

The spokesman said: "Material covered includes necrophilia, bestiality and violence that is life threatening or likely to result in serious injury to the anus, breasts or genitals.

"If you believe you have come across illegal pornographic material on a website then it should be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation www.IWF.org.uk to whom reports about potentially obscene material can already be sent. The IWF can determine whether or not that website is hosted in the UK, and whether or not it is potentially showing material in breach of UK legislation."

There is a more detailed Register look at the guidelines here. ®

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